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A New Hope To Defeat Opioid Addiction

Legally prescribed painkillers such as oxycodone, or street drugs like heroin, are a major cause of death in Nevada.

From January to May of this year, 72 people who died in Clark County had some form of opiate in their blood.

And a growing number of people in Clark County have the dubious distinction of being able to say they know a friend or relative who is addicted to opioids.

To date, it seems like little has done to combat addiction, beyond limiting prescriptions, which are down 30 percent since 2011.

But community leaders in Nevada have formed a group to combat opioid addiction. And Arthur Dean, a retired Army general and head of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, is talking to them this week.

Dean told State of Nevada that unused opioids in homes are part of the problem. To destroy them, his group will issue 50,000 kits that allow the drug's destruction by simply putting them into a pouch and adding water.

“If we can get these unwanted medicines out of the homes we can have a huge impact on the availability by billing it down hopefully keeping people from being addicted to these opioids," he said.

The drugs should not be flushed because of the impact they have on the environment. 

Dean says the project involves civic and religious leaders along with businesses and other nonprofit groups because the opioid crisis has impacted everyone in some way.

He said bringing together everyone is the only way to fight the epidemic. 

"When we work the problem holistically, bring in all the sectors together – law enforcement, faith, private business, medical, schools, parents, youth… private and civic leadership, and where we have these coalitions their substance abuse rates are about 25 to 30 percent less than cities without them,” he said.

Dean also said Nevada's legalization of recreational marijuana isn't helping matters. He was reluctant to call pot a "gateway drug," but said the ease of obtaining it along with a growing sense, especially by parents, that it is fine to use, is problematic. 

Gen. Arthur Dean (ret.) CEO/Chairman, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.